The Managing a Masterpiece team and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust have been training people how to identify and protect the elusive dormouse (photo, Alison Looser).The Managing a Masterpiece team and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust have been training people how to identify and protect the elusive dormouse (photo, Alison Looser).
At the end of October and beginning of November  we were able to run a training course for the general public under the natural heritage section of our project. The idea was to teach people the sort of habitat that the dormouse would need and to identify signs of where they have been active. People will then be able to search for signs of dormouse activity along public foot paths in the Stour valley.
The course took place at a couple of locations in the valley, one south of the river in Alphamstone and one north of the river in Polstead. We were very lucky with the turn out for both events and over 60 people attended the course.
The course started at 9.30am with refreshments and a chance to meet our lecturer Dr Simone Bullion. We then spent about an hour listening to Simone talk about the dormouse and the habitat it lives in. Simone also explained the key ways to identify dormouse activity in the landscape and how the dormouse monitoring teams go about the work of recording dormouse numbers.
We saw how the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the Essex Wildlife Trust and other groups go about liaising with farmers and landowners to improve the habitats available for the dormouse. Simone discussed some of the relatively simple techniques used to improve habitat and increase the links between populations of dormice. We also learned about some of the difficulties involved in habitat improvement and how other animals can cause problems if steps are not taken to protect the areas being improved.
After the talk we were given a chance to identify hazel nuts which had been opened by various wild animals such as squirrels, field mice and dormice. After a short break we went off down the road for chance to search for dormouse activity on the land of a local farmer. We would like to offer our thanks to those farmers involved, for allowing such a large group of people to traipse over their property, the day would have been far less valuable without this opportunity.
What to do next
The idea is for member of the public, particularly those who have attended the course, to gather evidence of dormouse activity when walking on public foot paths. We are not advocating people to trespass on private land when searching for dormouse activity. However if people would like to approach landowners to gain consent for access to their land, then there is an open letter from the project which can be downloaded below to assist discussions.
There is also a recording form which should be used when recording any evidence of dormouse activity and that can also be downloaded below. These forms and any potential dormouse nuts should then be sent to Dr Simone Bullion, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Brooke House, Ashbocking, Ipswich. IP6 9JY. There is also a fact sheet available for those wishing to brush up on the dormouse or how to identify how they open a hazel nut.
Dormouse Survey Form
Dormouse Fact Sheet